Category Archives: Getting to Know Us

Wel­come to our Get­ting to Know Us series where we meet our mem­bers and learn a bit more about one another.

Getting to Know — Brenda van Kessel-Pérez Bernabé


Where were you born?

I was born in Lima, Peru.

Where have you lived?

When I came to live in The Netherlands it was the first time ever I travelled abroad (the longest flight hours of my life). Here I have lived in Marum (near Groningen), Almere, Ermelo (near Amersfoort) and now in Hilversum.

Where can we find you online (Website/blog/Twitter coordinates)?

I used to have a nail blog, but I stopped due to lack of time (maybe one day?) but on Facebook I am always reachable.

What brought you to Almere?

I came to this country as an Au Pair, but not to take care of children but animals (5 cats, 2 dogs and 2 birds) Yes, I know, not the regular nanny job :D, my host family moved from the north to Almere; which for me was a blessing, specially coming from a city of 8 million people and moving alone to another continent and ending up living in a tiny farming village. At that time I stayed because of love, after that long relationship ended, I decided to stay in Holland and build a life here on my own. Later on I met Stijn and the rest is history.

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.

When I lived in Almere (and the main reason I keep coming to visit) is the people. Yes, you all! The international environment, modern architecture and central location make it a great city to live in.

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?

I feel at home now. I have gone through many stages while adapting to my new life here. At the beginning I found everything new and different, when the tourist stage faded away I started missing home and my family badly. I had a really hard time adapting to a complete different culture and language. It takes time, patience and since I have no family around, a good support system (there is where the Expat Community comes in the picture). Now after almost 7 years I find myself having the life I wanted. So yeah! I feel at home now.

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

I am a sushi addict, so Kimono it’s a great place to eat, Yamas is a great option for Greek food and Wild West Steakhouse for the meat lovers (yummy spare ribs :P). For a night out so IA’s FND at Apollo is my first choice.

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?

I am an expat, I have adapted to the Dutch life and society (I think/ guess/ hope) but I am and will always be a Peruvian girl. I am proud and love deeply my culture and customs and I will pass them on to my children no matter where I live.

How long do you plan on living here for?

I am planning to stay here for good…but you never know what life has in store for you…

Tell us how you found International Almere?

I saw the site once but I just didn’t dare to come by myself. I am a shy person at first (afterwards you wish I stayed shy). I came to a Friday night drinks in May about 4 years ago and since then I try to come to as many activities I can.

Have you been to any International Almere events? Which was your favourite?

Many! I come to Friday Night Drinks (as often as possible), summer picnic, Ladies Movie Night, International Almere birthdays, Summer BBQ at the Kemphaan, Elf Fantasy Fair, Aussie BBQ, Halloween parties and all Christmas events. Halloween and Christmas are my all-time favorites the atmosphere is just awesome!

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

Just do it! We are looking into moving back to Almere next year, hopefully sooner…

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?

The language, after so long I still struggle with communicating, but most people speak good English (and are very eager to practice it!) so there’s
always a way to get things done. And of course the “lovely weather” (I am a tropical creature, so don’t get me started on that one!)

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?

The reflection of Almere at night over the Weerwater, seen from the A6…it’s just gorgeous. Reminds me a lot of my city at night

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate? Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

My favourite it has always been Queen’s day (now King’s Day), all the crazy orange dressed people, free concerts, great flea markets. From Peru I do celebrate Independence Day on July 28th I cook some of my grandma’s recipes, make our national cocktail: Pisco Sour and sing national music (and of course, after cocktails always comes the dance :P).

Getting to know — Phillip Shuttleworth

Where were you born?

I was born in a back of an ambulance which was parked in the car park from a Bingo Hall in Northampton.  I was put in the local newspaper the next day as being the first healthy born in a back of an ambulance.

Where have you lived?
The first place which I have lived is in Daventry (Central Midlands – England). I lived there for about 18 years be for I moved to a place called Lyme Regis (Summerset – England).  Lyme Regis is a nice place to visit in the summer but it does get busy. About 1 year after I moved to Lyme I met my wife which most of the main members knows about. After going back and forth for about a year I moved to The Netherlands With her and I stayed here since.

Where can we find you online?

You can find in Facebook (Http://www.facebook.com/phil.shuttleworth.5).
If you go to any of the IA’s events, I will also be there.
Almere is an inter­est­ing and unique city to live in, describe your favorite part of liv­ing here.

Yes Almere is a unique city, living here is ok and you do have everything close by. If you like nature you will love Almere. I can always find a place to sit back and relax and its only a small bike ride away.

Where is your favorite place to go out or eat out in the city?

My favorite place to eat out in the city would have to be the Greek restaurant  “Rodos”  which is located by the central station in Almere.

Would you define your­self as an expat, an inter­na­tional, or some­thing entirely different?

I would define myself as an international but at the same time I will always stay English.

How long do you plan on liv­ing here for?

I tend to stay here until I decide to move on, I don’t set plans so I won’t know myself.

Tell us how you found Inter­na­tional Almere?

I found International Almere through my work college:  Gerard Danks.

Have you been to any Inter­na­tional Almere events? Which was your favorite?

The events which I have been to are:
-Friday night drinks.
-I found this to be a great way to get to know met people also you can be yourself.
-Quiz night.
-This event I do like. I don’t think that much about anything but this is a good challenge and it helps you think.

What advice would you offer to oth­ers who are think­ing of tak­ing the plunge and mov­ing to Almere?

No comment. You will have to see if for yourself.

What has been your biggest chal­lenge since arriv­ing in Almere?

When I moved here it was no problem to adjust.

If you had to leave tomor­row and could take only one thing – any­thing – from Almere, what would it be?

If I had to leave I would take my memories. Memories are the most important thing which you could take with you.

What is your favorite Dutch tra­di­tion, and how do you cel­e­brate? Do you still cel­e­brate hol­i­days and tra­di­tions from your home country?

My favourite Dutch tradition has to be Kings Day. The way I celebrate it is: where Orange and look around to see what people are selling.  I still celebrate the traditions from the UK because they are the same as here.

Margreet Kwakernaak

Getting to Know – Margreet Kwakernaak

Margreet KwakernaakMargreet Kwakernaak, teacher and owner of Suitcase talen

Who is Margreet Kwakernaak? Though teachers have to answer many questions, they seldom have to answer this question. The role of the teacher is to help other people to learn and not to focus on themselves.

I was born and grew up in the beautiful town of Delft. My father was as well a teacher of German as well as an assistent director at two schools: one at daytime and the other one at night. My mother rose the 4 children (3 boys and 1 girl) and run a very well organised household. My father was mild, my mother was strict. I think I have both characteristics.

After secondary school, I left home to study in Amsterdam. I studied Spanish language and literature at the University of Amsterdam and, in the evening, arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.

During the first 21 years of my career I always have been teaching Spanish as well as handicrafts and drawing. After 21 years of unruly teenagers I left secondary school to continue teaching Spanish at an adult school. It was the work with adults that I really liked and I started Suitcase talen in Almere, with help from my partner. As we both had jobs during daytime, we started with English and Spanish evening classes.

I am a workaholic but my partner was not, and Suitcase talen was the end of our relation. I moved to an industrial estate in Almere Muziekwijk. In the first year a was responsible for the construction of a building of 436 M2 and as soon as it was finished, Suitcase talen started growing. With a team of 20 free lance teachers Suitcase talen offered English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian to employees of the international companies in Almere
In 2002 we started experimenting with Dutch. I did the intakes and sometimes had to replace my teachers, and with some extra schooling and help of my collegues, I learnt to teach Dutch. It was not difficult after teaching Spanish for so many years.

When I got a new neighbour, an instruction pool for children, hell started. 7 days a week there was the constant clapping of doors of many cars, on the parking places of the building where I worked and lived, on weekdays form 8:00 until 21:00 and in the weekend until 16:00.

In 2006 I wrote the first of 7 textbooks on Dutch, Dutch for Dummies. I loved to dive deep in this writing task during the weekend, after my daily organisational and managing work.

In 2007 I was happy to rent my building to gemeente Almere. Long before I moved to the actual location in Almere-Haven, I had decided to stop managing and that I wanted to have a small school and teach rather than manage other teachers.

And so it happened that the smaller Suitcase talen became, the better got its reputation. My decision to specialize on highly educated students, finally, after 15 years of not feeling at home, reconciled me completely with Almere. Interesting students, Almere becoming a real town with good sport facilities, a growing international group- I love to provide you with quality classes for now and the near future.

Getting to Know – Greg Shapiro

Meet Greg Shapiro, International comedian, actor and author, and long term sufferer of ‘Multiple Nationality Disorder’.  Greg recently visited Almere with his ‘Greg Shapiro Presents : Brendon Burns’ show which gave audiences a taste of what was to come on November 7th – Superburger, The man with split nationalities! – where he discusses at length his struggle with MND, Dutch culture and also his new book, ‘How To Be Orange’.   

Greg meets Bu, the International Almere Bear.
Greg meets Bu, the International Almere Bear.

 

1. The Netherlands is an interesting country to live in – what’s your favourite part of living here?
Biking! I love the fact that our family car has 2 wheels, and you don’t necessarily have to spend half your day in a car just to get your daily work & shopping done.
2. Do you describe yourself as an expat, and international, or something else?
I’m an expat. I’m the textbook definition. I came from Chicago, moved to Amsterdam – and stopped.
3. What advice would you offer to a complete stranger who wants to move to the Netherlands?
Do it! it feels foreign and familiar at the same time. Especially if you’re from the US. The Dutch have a history of individualism, capitalism, liberalism. So many factors that define America actually started here. I feel much more at home than I’d ever expected.
 
4. What has been your biggest challenge since moving here? 
The Dutch language is an aesthetic car crash.
5. If you had to leave tomorrow, what would be the one thing you would take with you?
My beautiful, blond, half-Dutch family. And stroopwafels.
6. What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate it? Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
Can’t wait for Queen’s Day to become King’s Day. Someday, I hope to take part in the tradition of sticking your head through a big target and yelling at Dutch people until they pay money to throw eggs at you.
7. You describe yourself as having ‘MND – Multiple Nationality Disorder’. Tell me a little more about that.
It’s about moving to a different country and getting culture shock – but also getting culture shock when you get back home. It’s about Dutch people who’ve lived abroad, moved back and don’t recognize it anymore. It’s for the 3rd culture kids with multiple passports. When you never feel 100% at home anywhere – that’s ‘Multiple Nationality Disorder.’
8. You mention in your book about speaking Dunglish – and being fluent in ‘Google Translate Dutch’. Tell us about a time where your Dutch went horribly wrong…
I once did a performance in Dutch about what a humiliating experience the Dutch language is – for the speaker and the listener. I tried to get my all-Dutch audience to realize that their language is an aesthetic car-crash, and – as a civilization – they deserve better. They didn’t get it.
 
9. Most of us who come here have to do some level of Inburgeringscursus to maintain our residency. What was the most useful or interesting piece of information you learned in your course? What was the most useless?
The most interesting bits of my assimilation course came from the unexpected quarters, like when the woman from Turkey explained that the headscarf was banned when she was growing up so that – for her – when she wears a headscarf in the Netherlands, it’s not a symbol of oppression, but a symbol of liberation. Still, the instructor told us on the exam just write ‘symbol of oppression.’
10. Finally, you’ve visited Almere, you’ve filmed a movie in Almere … tell us your favourite part of Almere!
I quite liked the show I did at the top floor of the World Trade Center. Flevoland is a modern miracle, and you can see the whole thing from up
there.
Greg’s book – “How to be Orange” is available through http://shop.puuree.com/content/book-how-be-orange for the astoundingly low price of  €14,95.  Do yourself a favour and read it!
Want even more hilarity?  Check out Greg’s Show at De Nieuwe Bibliotheek, Almere on November 7th –  tickets available here http://gregshapiro.nl/content/de-nieuwe-bibliotheek

Getting to know us – Sarah Leonard

We all know the lady behind the numbers and the money at International Almere, but how well do we really know her?  Find out more about Sarah!

Where were you born?

I was born in Maidstone, Kent, England in 1973, yes  that makes me 40 very soon.

Where have you lived?

I spent a few years living with a friend in Belton  Lincolnshire, this was to save me travelling every weekend to party  and drink  my weekends away, this was the rebel years of my life, I  never went to uni so this was my time to be wild.

Where can we find you online?

Contact with me is easy, I can be found on Facebook,  yes I have a mobile phone but most of the time its switched off, that’s  not normal I here you say, but I like it that way.

Almere is an inter­est­ing and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of liv­ing here.

We came to Almere as my partner Kay brought a apartment  here, he brought it just from  plans on paper, we came over to  see the progress of the build about every 12 weeks, he lived in Ermelo  at the time with his parents and I was still in the UK, his sister lives  here so we knew what we was coming to, Kay gave me the key to the apartment  after I had finished doing a 5km race of life event for cancer around  my local park, in them days I was fitter and thinner.

Almere is a good place to live for us as Kay works  in Amersfoort so the train takes his strain on the daily commute, there  are lots of nice places within 1 hour drive and you can be in Germany  or Belgium in 90 minutes. Camping is a big part in our lives so it perfect  to be so close to major motorway links. Kemphaan is great and there  are many open parks so there is no need to stay in the concrete jungle.

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

Eating so is not something we do very often, but the  places we enjoy are an the Van de Valk hotel live cooking and brunch,  Yamas and Athene in Tussen de vaarten.

Would you define your­self as an expat, an inter­na­tional, or some­thing entirely different?

Expat or international, well for me not any of these  I just think of myself as a Brit living abroad.

How long do you plan on liv­ing here for?

I think that we are pretty much staying here for a  long as I can see, Kay’s works in the private health care insurance system  and we don’t really have that in the UK so he would need to find a  job there doing something else that pays good money, travel cost and  flexi working hours. We have our apartment for sale at the moment, we  will stay in Almere.

Tell us how you found Inter­na­tional Almere?

The way I found International Almere was via a friend  of a friend, I never really used computers before I came to Holland,  so had no idea of Google, search engine etc, My friend came to visit  her friend who lives in Amsterdam so I went to meet them both for lunch,  she told me them about a group that she was in and to join up, so I  came home found the web site and asked to become a member, I was asked  to write a small piece about myself, so that’s what I did, I had many  welcomes and hello from people but the only person that lived in Almere  was Connie, She told me come meet the local group on Friday night at  Jordaan, This took me 2 months to pluck up the courage to go, that night  I took my partner  for support, I arrived at the place went to  the bar to order a drink and then stood there with my dumbo ears trying  to listen for the English people, I was nervous and really wanted to  leave but then in came Connie all bubbly so I made my move to introduce  myself, I was introduced to the small group of woman, lucky for me I  was not the only new person that night so it was a bit easier, our partners  went to another table and chatted together as at that time it was no  men allowed. I enjoyed by evening and everyone was nice and friendly,  one person stood out the most Gina smith, as she comes from the same  town as me in England but we have never met before, so I have never  looked back and have enjoyed many a night out.

Have you been to any Inter­na­tional Almere events?  Which was your favourite?

I have been to most of the events that International  Almere host, I don’t really have a favourite  as they are all  good in there own way and you always meet new people.

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

My advice to anyone  reading  this is to come along and meet us all, it’s a big step at  first but really we are all in the same position and making friends  helps ease the journey. Trust me there is someone here that you can  connect with, if the first night you don’t find them, just keep coming  they will be there in the end. I would not have stayed here if I didn’t  make good friends at the group.

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?

The biggest challenge for me when I moved here was  not working, I worked a lot in the UK and enjoyed my work very much,  so sitting at home was not my thing, and the hardest of all was on a  Sunday when back in the days when I arrived nothing was open, supermarkets  , shops all closed, and I was used to just going out shopping on my  days off. I now work at Letterland international school  doing  the lunch duty, and I have been treasurer for this group now for just  under 2 years.

 If you had to leave tomor­row and could take only one thing – any­thing – from Almere, what would it be?

I would take sate sauce as Kay can’t live without it!

What is your favourite Dutch tra­di­tion, and how do you cel­e­brate?  Do you still cel­e­brate hol­i­days and tra­di­tions from your home country?

Dutch celebrations are not really done in my home  as we don’t have children, and Kay’s family do not do anything apart  from birthdays when I have to go and sit in the circle, and eat cake.  Christmas for me is the best I have a big tree and love to decorate  my home, I have spent only 2 Christmas days here and not really enjoyed  either, so sorry I go home to my family and open my presents, and then  enjoy shopping in the sales after.

Family is the biggest thing I miss from home, but  I am lucky as I can get home very quickly if needed, and I have a special  tariff on the phone so I can call for only 10 cents for as long as I  like .I got my 74 year old father to use Facebook so he can also keep  tracks on me and look at my photos. Marks and spencers is now here so  I can get some home comfort food when I feel  the need.

Sarah Leonard - the lady behind the numbers on our 'Getting to Know Almere' event :)
Sarah Leonard – the lady behind the numbers on our ‘Getting to Know Almere’ event 🙂
Sarah and her partner, Kay on one of their many camping trips!
Sarah and her partner, Kay on one of their many camping trips!

 

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Getting to Know Us: Zejna Kaunic

Time to meed Zejna, our favourite photographer. In her short time on this earth Zejna has experienced a lot and has as diverse a family as one could possibly. Go ahead see yourself (see what I did there?).

Where were you born?
I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina back in 1983. This was Yugoslavia back then.

Zejna Sarajevo

Where have you lived?
I have lived in Sarajevo, het Gooi, Baarn and Almere.

 

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on Facebook (Zejna Kaunic) and I have a Facebook page for my Photography company (See Yourself Photography). I also have a Hyves page that i never use, and also a Linkedin profile. But I am by far most active on Facebook.

Www.facebook.com/SeeYourselfPhotography

Www.syzkphoto.nl

 

Wedding photo

What brought you to Almere?
Well my mom and I came to Holland in 1992 due to the war in my home country as refugees.  After living in a refugee camp here in Holland for almost 2 years, and the war in my country was not near its end so returning was not an option, my mom got an apartment assigned to her in Almere haven. This was back in 1994.

 

My mom met my step dad at the NT2 course when he opened the door for her during a lunch break. There is romance in integration. Don’t lose hope people!  Afterwards we moved a few times to Almere Muziekwijk and Almere Buiten. When I moved out of the family house I decided to stay near everybody so I’ve lived in Waterwijk and Kruidenwijk too.  I’m a super – Almerian!

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.

I like the city centre that is near where there is a variety of shops to shop from but also the quite living among green gardens and nature parks. I like that everything is well connected via public transportation, I like the fact that Utrecht, Lelystad, Amsterdam and Schiphol are really near!

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
I had to go to a Dutch school and learned the language there just from being in the class. I also met kids and they became my friends. I think that was that for the biggest part. Just being a part of everyday life doing what everybody does. So this is my advice to all newcomers, participate and go out and mingle and all will be all right. But it took me quite a few years to accept the fact that we would be staying here and not returning home to Bosnia. There is a crucial difference in moving to another country because you want to or because you have no other option. But now I’m pretty well adjusted, at least I hope so after 20 years spent here.

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
I like bagels and beans in the new part of the city centre because they serve great fresh juices and bagels. I like the all you can eat concept of Atlantis. And I love the Mexican-hot pizza of New York pizza (haha).

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
An international from an international and diverse new-found family! Because my mom and I are from Bosnia and speak this language with each other, my step dad is from Iraq as is my stepbrother, they speak Arabic with each other, we (mom, dad and I) speak English and my brother and I speak Dutch with each other. Just imagine our dinner table, 4 languages at all times. My fiancée is half Dutch half Caribbean he speaks Dutch and Papiamento. My best friend is a Korean girl. So International multicultural it is! And proud of it!

Zejna and fiance

How long do you plan on living here for?
I think I will be living here for a while, maybe even forever. Although I have a secret wish to move to a sunny climate one day.

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
Back in 2010 Connie (IA) and Katy from NELCA came across me on Hyves and asked me to help them with a charity project. I took pictures that were made into a calendar and the money collected from the sales of this calendar was donated to cancer research. After that we stayed in touch. I also photographed Sonja and Julians’ wedding in 2012, met a few international Almere members there too and came across some old friends. I bought a bike from an IA member. And did some family shoots as well. So eventually I met quite a few members here and there.

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
I went to magic mike ladies night! Wohooo. Got my ticket from Connie but she wasn’t able to get in because it was sold out. The silly thing is that I sat between everybody but was too shy to really speak with anyone. So this was a funny favourite moment… I sponsored the Christmas dinner but didn’t go. This is one that I would like to join in the future or the bbq in the summer.

 

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
If you are an international, IA is a great place to meet people, ask your questions and feel a part of a community. There is no need at all to feel alone, everybody is welcome and all the members are super helpful!

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
The weather. But this is Holland in general. I feel that Holland has fall for 9 months a year, and spring, summer and winter for the 3 months that are left. So the grey, rainy everlasting weather knows to get its toll on me from time to time. I need more sun! Also good job opportunities. Although most people know me as a photographer, I actually majored in pedagogy. I used to work for a quality kindergarten and did photography on the side along with a photography study. Loved to combine my 2 passions, photography and childcare. But the overall childcare system has changed a lot over the past year especially in Almere. I am now officially overqualified to work at a kindergarten and probably too expensive due to the economic crisis. So that’s a shame. Also the company that I used to work at has been sold and no longer exists.  I am a firm believer that our government should not cut down and economize on (preschool) education

Zejna motorcross

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
My mom! Haha. Can’t go without mama! And my camera(s)… oops that’s more than one thing!

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?
I love Queens day. Soon to be kings day. I love the overall celebration, the atmosphere and love love love the free market. Love to walk around and look at and buy old stuff.

 

Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

I do. We celebrate Bajram. This is also known as Aid well known to Turkish and Arabic people. We visit family and friends and eat a lot of sweets like baklava. Children are supposed to wear new clothes and congratulate adults and then they receive some pocket money.

I like to go to Bosnia on 1st of May. This is the day of labor (arbeid in Dutch). Everyone is free and people go to their weekend houses, barbecue and eat, drink and sing all day. (Not quite the same if you do it here). Food and friendship is something very important in Bosnia, one and another compliment each other.

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us:  Caroline Mackie

Getting to Know Us:  Juliette Kuijpers Ter Weijden

Getting to Know Us:  Gerard Danks

Getting to Know Us:  Stephanie Ernst-Milner

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

 

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Getting to Know Us series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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Getting to Know Us: Caroline Mackie

Meet Caroline, a Scot who has lived in the Netherlands longer than she has ever lived in Scotland.  You’d think that would diminish the accent, right?  Not a chance.  And as a huge fan of the Scottish accent, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Caroline also has the loveliest Westie named Luna.  I’ve been plotting ways to steal her for quite some time….

Caroline at an IA party
Caroline with the Scottish contingent – Petra and Carol Ann
Where were you born?

I hail from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

Where have you lived?

Well, I grew up and worked in the city centre. Also lived a WHOLE TWO MONTHS in Copenhagen once upon a century. It was a tossup between there and Amsterdam where we’d move to. Amsterdam won, although I have never actually lived there.

Where can we find you online?

Facebook of course… then I do HAVE a twitter account but can’t get my head around the necessity for it so very rarely visit it – @carolinemackLWD. And my own business website – I’m now a busy bee with translating:
LWD Translations and Editing

What brought you to Almere?

After a 13 year rental stint in Weesp where our kids basically grew up, we wanted to buy, and Almere was the only reasonably priced option in the vicinity at the time, 20+ years ago (I’ve been here a while). I had only been to Almere once before, when they opened the train line and gave a free trip! It was just sand, sand and more sand then… nightmare! But we were pleasantly surprised and have been in the same house since moving here.

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here
The real Caroline
Photoshop? No way!

Well, I USED to say… it’s easy to leave and go to Amsterdam hehehe. But I really do think there are so many advantages to living here. Great shops – when you include all the ‘industrial’ estates, you hardly need Amsterdam at all these days. Lots of job ops too (I’m pretty sure!) I KNOW it’s great for kids, lots of green, water and wildlife. Loads of schools to choose from too. I’m not sure anything is missing nowadays. Ok so there are no OLD buildings but it makes up for that with new some pretty cool new ones.

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?

Probably not really a question for me, being here for so long. But I have to say, what IA does is just terrific. I could certainly have used just such a bunch of folks 33+ years ago! We should however encourage (even) more ‘integration’ – especially in the area of Dutch language. Maybe one night a month when everybody HAS to speak Dutch… or something? (well, not ‘HAS to speak…’ but… ‘should be encouraged to learn’). Maybe have everything labelled in Dutch at any meet-ups? Have everyone feel free to offer a suggestion ‘how to say it in Dutch’ blabla… Use our Dutch (speaking) members more and not let them get away with using our meets for them to speak and improve their English!

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

I’m not all that discerning really, although know what I don’t like. The fact that they allowed a Macdonald’s on stadhuisplein is already a huge thorn in my side every time I pass it. I have honestly not often been in a restaurant where I had anything bad to say about the grub. SERVICE on the other hand…

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?

I HATE the expression ex-pat and its blatant misuse but that’s me again. So, no, I’m not an ex-pat. And I read only the other day of a survey showing high percentages of PEOPLE LIVING IN NL not considering themselves European which I can’t quite get my head around. I’m a Scot, living abroad. I will never be Dutch (even if do ever get my Dutch passport… don’t start me!) Having lived here in NL longer than I ever have in Scotland, I’m a bit of a puzzle really. But that’s the way of it.

How long do you plan on living here for?

We DID only plan on ‘a couple of years’… ‘until the kids go to school’… ‘until the kids go to secondary’…hehehe. Here for the duration now. We’re only a 1 hour flight away… so lucky compared to those from USA, or AUS…PERU ffs! I leave now? I’m in my daughter’s in Glasgow before bedtime (she grew up here from 6 months old and went to be an au pair for six months… 14 years ago!) Practically speaking, the same if we lived in the same country in different cities and travelled by public transport, which we do as neither of us drives.

Tell us how you found International Almere?

I was out at a ‘promote your business’ type of affair, in Amsterdam, and met a Scottish lady, Deirdre. She pointed it all out to me… who knew?! She also introduced me to Mrs. Matamoros, for which I am forever grateful and am annoyed we all didn’t know each other long ago already (although I was practically in at the start… well near anyway… of IA).

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?

I turn up at the odd event… and was well impressed with the Christmas do.

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

Do it! Especially if you have kids. Wish I could convince my elder girl who lives in Amsterdam but that’s not going to happen. I still have hopes for my girl in Glasgow. She grew up in NL and lived in Almere from age 14 and might just come back from Glasgow yet.

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
Caroline with her “long suffering” husband

‘Nother one not really for me but I can imagine myself turning up as a newcomer now…must be daunting! Tip though, persevere with the language, it’s bloody wonderful when you know it. Some fabulous literature too… they don’t tell you that much at school anywhere outside NL (or maybe they do now, things will have changed since I went to school)! Insist on folk speaking Dutch to you and before long, your Dutch will be waaay better than (most folks’) English (which is after all the lingua franca we all use). Watch Sesame Street even if you don’t have kids!! I honestly learned loads on there, after I got over Bert and Ernie sounding ‘wrong’ (I now think the originals sound ‘wrong!!’ but that took a while).

I always wonder how I would have fared if I’d gone to say… Spain, or CHINA, instead of NL. I mean who the heck emigrates to ‘Holland’ from the UK?! Well ok, quite a few folks but… it’s just not a language you hear much… or if I did, I thought it was German! – in fact I was here for about a year before I realised the difference in sound from German to Dutch… embarrassingly bizarre I know, but true.

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?

I honestly don’t know! Assuming, for the exercise we’re not talking ‘husband’ etc. I know I really wouldn’t miss the wispelturig (it’s a word! Look it up!) attitude of the Dutch, but if I was going from here TO Scotland, I could list a bunch of things that’d get my goat about folks there too so… really don’t know.

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

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I am somewhat of a ‘traditionaphobe’ if I’m honest. Although, that’s not entirely true… I just don’t honestly LIKE ‘all things orange’ and the ‘ouwejongens krentebrood’ nonsense. I was thrown into Sinterklaas only a couple of  weeks after coming here, and thought it was great… until I realised there was then no SANTA here (at the time anyway). And now it’s all mixed up and ruined for me really. I get livid when they start it all up mid-October (if we’re lucky and they’re late!). Valentine’s Day, and Hallow’e’en were also non-existent here until not all that long ago and ‘they’ just do it all wrong so it bugs me. I should probably just embrace it all eh? And will perhaps do so… eventually… for my grandchildren’s sake. Maybe not though, don’t quote me. But please Nederlanders, you’re NOT all royalists, you’re just NOT… you just really like an excuse for a piss-up, which is fine by me too  OH and while I’m on a rant a bit… I find it so sad that Wilders is given credence specifically in ALMERE How embarrassing! So much for the ‘traditional’ tolerance of the Dutch.

There was a time when flights were really, really expensive and a fortnight’s holiday in Southern Spain with the four of us was cheaper than one of us going to Scotland for a week. And we all know that when we go ‘home’ we want to take presents, eat out a lot and generally look the big-shot traveller and play happy families, visiting the whole time and not really seeing the place at all. So the choice was simple and there was a period of 10 years when I didn’t go ‘home’ to Edinburgh at all. I finally got there… I was like an addict needing a fix by that time…. And while I did have a great time, I found that when I came BACK to HERE, I was ACTUALLY coming home. So I suppose home is where you hang your hat… lay your head… where your heart is… blablabla. It takes a while, and you can take the girl out of xx but you can’t take xx out of the girl… yeah, all that. We often wonder how we’d be if we’d stayed in Edinburgh. Impossible to tell but we’ve done ok, have to say, despite quite a few setbacks – could have been better, could have been worse too. It has to be worked at a little, you have to let go a little and you have to also dig in a little and make yourself at home, wherever you are on this planet. Here endeth the gospel according to Caroline.

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us:  Juliette Kuijpers Ter Weijden

Getting to Know Us:  Gerard Danks

Getting to Know Us:  Stephanie Ernst-Milner

Getting to Know Us:  Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us:  Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us:  Becky Riddle

 

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Getting to Know Us: Gerard Danks

Meet Gerard, the first bloke in our Getting to Know Us series.  Born in arguably the most beautiful of all English counties, Gez (as we lovingly like to call him) like many of us here at International Almere moved to Almere for love. Together with his lovely girlfriend and fellow team mates in the Upsidedowners, Gez is famous for reigning supreme at the hugely popular International Almere Friday Night Quiz.

More about Gez:

Where were you born?
A hospital in Truro, Cornwall, UK.

 

Where have you lived?
All over the UK, nearly! Mevagissey, St Austell, Exeter, Swansea, York, Warrington, Bristol, Blackwood, Maes-Y-Cwmmer, Oostzaan and now Almere!

Where can we find you online?
Realistically, only Facebook. I have a Twitter account (@cmdrstarion) which I might look at once a week.

 

What brought you to Almere?
Prior to Almere, Irma (my girlfriend) and myself were in a rented flat in Oostzaan. I’d been living over here for nearly two years at the time and we needed a bigger place to live. We ended up looking in Almere for houses, as they were reasonably priced for the size, it’s relatively central for visiting Irma’s family, and we’re handily not far from a train station with a direct link to Schiphol.

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
I like how, as a new city, there’s been a lot of thought put into the infrastructure. For example, the bus lanes and cycle paths being separate from the normal roads, plenty of green places (even the rooftop lawns in the middle of town!), and ease of connection to the rest of the country. Though a direct road to Harderwijk wouldn’t go amiss, instead of having to drive up to Lelystad first!

 

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
I wouldn’t say I’ve been ‘made’ to feel at home, rather, I just feel at home here. The pace of life and the city is very similar to what I grew up with in Exeter. I couldn’t see myself living in Amsterdam (certainly not downtown Amsterdam!) – too hectic and full of klote toeristen and their bloody trolley cases!

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
Can’t go wrong with Rhodos, in my opinion. It’s the Greek just opposite Almere Centrum station. The first time I came over to The Netherlands to visit Irma, we tried to go to a tex-mex place in Zaandam, but it was fully booked. As a back-up, we managed to get into a Greek, about 10 minutes walk from where she lived. I’d never had Greek food before, and wasn’t even sure what it entailed. But Irma assured me I’d like it, as it was mainly grilled meats. I found out that night that I liked Greek food, and ever since I’ve always had to go “one more time, just to make sure”. Rhodos is nice and handy too. Being right by the rail station, it’s only a few stops from us so we can both have a drink and not worry about who’s driving home.

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I’d most likely say expat. Though ‘european’ comes to mind as well. I wouldn’t go so far as international though, having never been outside of Europe.

 

How long do you plan on living here for?
For good! Or possibly till Irma kicks me out. (Love you really!)

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
Kind of through the quiz nights. Irma had seen the IA website, and about the quizzes from there. We’d initially read that there was an email sign-up for the quiz, then Irma saw via Twitter that it was “just turn up”. So, last April, we did. And you’ve not been able to get rid of us since!

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
I think I’ve been to every quiz night since April, even being score-master once and quiz-master once! I’ve also been to a few Friday Night Drinks, and the Christmas Meal just gone.

 

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
Just do it and take the plunge!

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
That’d have to be finding work. I’ve not got any decent qualifications to speak of, and being nearly 38 most shops would rather some spotty college kid that only gets paid half of what it’d cost to hire me. I did work for 18 months in the Staples warehouse as an order picker, but the work dropped off, and there was no budget to keep any of the temp staff that started at the same time as me. After the required 6 month break, it hadn’t picked up enough to warrant taking me back on, either.

 

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
Ooohh, toughie. Um, IA? Can I take IA with me?

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
Hmm. I’d say birthdays. Yes, the (in)famous “Dutch Circle Party” (don’t use that when speaking to Dutch people though – they won’t have a clue what you’re talking about!). I had the same birthday as my maternal grandmother, and it was generally during or near a school holiday. So either my parents and I would be staying up there, or they’d come to our house. Dutch birthdays are pretty much the same (though less cake + candles), so I actually enjoy them!

What do you miss from your homeland?
Waterfalls. Sounds a little silly, but I kinda like them. And The Netherlands is somewhat lacking in the vertical landscape necessary for them. Mother’s cooking is another, but I guess I’d miss that even if I was back in the UK in a place of my own. What I have found though, is I think I’d miss more from here if I ever needed to move back to the UK (or elsewhere). Little things, like bittergarnituur. Go to a pub in the UK, and you can generally get snacks like crisps and nuts, or a full blown meal. But sometimes you’re out, and you want something to eat that’s somewhere between those two extremes, and bittergarnituur fits that bill! Bitterballen, vlaametjes, leverworst, all those small nibbles that you can get. The Netherlands scores big points in my book for those!

 

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us: Stephanie Ernst-Milner

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

 

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Getting to Know Us: Stephanie Ernst-Milner

As a ginger leftie*, Stephanie was lucky to make it through childhood, let alone across the globe to Almere – thank goodness you’re not a generation older hey Steph..?

Where were you born?
In a town called Gladstone, in Central Queensland, Australia. Please don’t hold it against me, I escaped.

 

Where have you lived?
Around Queensland mostly, growing up in Gladstone, followed by a long stint in Brisbane. I also lived on Moreton Island for a while for work.

 

Where can we find you online?
http://svernst78.livejournal.com/, Facebook … and most of those fail websites. You know, the ones where people type things into their phones and autocorrect kicks in …

 

What brought you to Almere?
A plane. Boeing 737 owned by Cathay Pacific, followed by a trip on the wonderful NS rail network. I’m kidding! I followed my husband here. The restraining order still hasn’t been approved …

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
Amazingly enough, it isn’t the bitterbollen and stroopwafels! I love the architecture here – and I love going up to La Place and seeing the rooftop gardens. We are so lucky to live in a city that is so accessible and pretty!

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
It really wasn’t until we got our own home here that I’ve felt truly at home. It was hard adjusting to living in the middle of a city when I come from a small town and even when I lived in the big smoke, I was in a semi rural area. So my greeting to Holland was Koniginnedag, followed by Liberation Day, followed by Euro Cup … you can kind of see I didn’t sleep much for a few months. However, I have made some wonderful friends here who have helped me out so much, so I am grateful to International Almere for being here for someone like me. It’s a big step to quit your job, leave your family and come to a country where you don’t know the language, and be welcomed by a group of amazing people who are experiencing or have experienced the same things as you and offer their support and friendship.

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
People are going to judge me when I say Kwalitaria – but really, for quick, cheap meals they can’t be beaten. Especially on those nights where you really can’t be bothered to cook. Lido holds a very special place in my heart – it’s where we had our second marriage celebration, and the food is just spectacular. You also can’t beat the Sushi Grill places … seriously – challenge yourselves and see how many rounds/dishes you can do. Between 2 our personal best is 4 rounds, 29 dishes …
And let’s not forget Yamas! That little Greek waiter who speaks a crazy combination of Dutch/French/English/Greek is just too cute for words, and the food? AMAZING!

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I really define myself as me. I guess that sounds a wee bit trite and pretentious, but I don’t believe we all fit into boxes. I think anyone who has made the decision to move to another country really has a challenge on their hands. So we adapt and change small things about ourselves and our upbringing to accomodate the differences in our lives. Some people embrace change, some don’t. Wow … I think I went on a tangent there….

 

How long do you plan on living here for?
Indefinitely. The mortgage monster has bitten hard, so we’re here for a while. Does that frighten anyone? *insert evil laugh here*

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
As a hardcore Googler, one day I was intrigued by the city described as “The Ipswich of Amsterdam” by my husband. We had confirmation his job was here, so I started a heavy session of Google. When I typed in “Expat Group Almere” a link came up for International Almere’s Facebook page. It was here that I learned that it wasn’t like Ipswich, Queensland at all. Noone wore flannel shirts and ripped jeans, noone drove hotted up Toranas and Falcons, and certainly noone had 2 heads. Instead I found a beautiful city full of people like myself!

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
Many! I loved the Aussie Style BBQ, the picnic, and just recently started going to the Quiz nights. Go Team Gingernuts!

 

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
Go for it. Embrace this city because it is a fantastic place to live (after all, we now have Primark!), it’s readily accessible to most places within NL and even across the borders, and with a support group like IA in the mix, you will seriously fall in love with this city.

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
Getting over my morbid fear of anything orange, stamppot, paardenworst, wooden shoes and open front curtains.. Seriously, I really couldn’t get over people walking past my house and looking into my kitchen for around 3 months. Then I started leaving the window open to torture then with the smells … and then I just started waving back and giving a cheerful “Goedenavond!”

 

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
Hmm. Tough question. My bike probably. I’ve fallen in love with it.

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
I had my first Sinterklaas here last year, and it was a load of fun. I still have my poem stuck on my fridge! I’m sure I will enjoy Koninginneday much more this year as I’m not right in the middle of it, or trying to sleep through it, although I may be traumatised by the orange overload …. I’m also looking forward to Sint Maarten’s as well – it must be cuteness overload! Other than that, pass me the bitterbollen and the beer, and Proost!

 

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle


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*the ginger comment is meant entirely in fun, I apologise to anybody who does not see my intended humour – Stephanie jokes about this herself…

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Meet Nicole, International Almere’s secretary.  Our interview with Nicole is the latest in our Getting to Know Us series here at International Almere.

Nicole stepped into the hugely challenging IA secretary role at the end of last year and most visibly is responsible for our newsletter (have you signed up for it?  If not, run, don’t walk HERE) along with ensuring that everything in the background of the ever-expanding group runs smoothly.

Over to you Nicole!

Where were you born?
I was born in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada.

 

Where have you lived?
I have lived in Simcoe ON, Fenwick ON and here in Almere. 

 

What brought you to Almere?
I came to Almere because it is where my husband lives.

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
What I love about Almere is that it is one of the biggest cities in The Netherlands. Yet, it doesn’t feel cramped at all.  Plus, living in Almere Haven, it is quite pretty and peaceful.

 

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
The best feeling of feeling like home is when my friends surprised me at the airport when I came back from Canada the first time.

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
I really don’t have a favourite place here in Almere.  I like most places.  Le Baron does hold a special place though.  It was the first place I went out to eat at when I was first here.

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I consider myself an International.

 

How long do you plan on living here for?
For the near future the plans are to stay here.  But hubby and I would like to live back in Canada one day.

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
I found IA by surfing the net.  I had met Christina at V&D one day and my son saw that her son had a maple leaf on his coat.  So we started talking – she is also from Canada and told me about the international group.  But when I got home I had forgotten it.  So I felt like a stalker trying to find this group! LOL

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
I go to most Friday night drinks and Quiz nights.  I love the Quiz nights the best!

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
I say go for it!  It’s a great city.  We may not have the old architecture, but you are close enough to other cities to see it when you want.  Best part, for being such a new city, we have a ruin! LOL (Almere Castle).

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
My biggest challenge was getting over the fact of having neighbors.  I’m a country girl.  Plus, having to get over the fear of taking public transit on my own.

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
Um… Tough question…Bus, bike and car lane system.  I really think it’s great how it’s all separated.  (for the most part). 

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

My favorite Dutch traditions are Queens Day, Sinterklaas and New years.   As for celebrating traditions from Canada, we don’t really do much of that here.  I will start though J So that my kids know those traditions too.

 

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

 
Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

 

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Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

Becky in Almere Buiten, July 2012

Welcome to our new Getting to Know Us series where we meet our members and learn a bit more about one another.

Kicking it off is International Almere’s first ever Life Member, Becky Riddle.

Becky first moved to Almere from England six years ago when an opportunity arose  with her husband’s work.  Since she arrived she has been involved with – and a huge influence on – the local expat community here in Almere.  So much so that when the opportunity arose to honour the extraordinary contribution of a member of our little community, Becky was the obvious choice.  Becky has been instrumental in shaping International Almere into what it has become today and has also taken the ABCDE Playgroup from strength to strength.

Becky has since taken a step back from her responsibilities to the international community here and is now busy focusing on new, more personal projects, of which we cannot wait to hear more about.

 

Now, more about Becky…

 

Where were you born?

Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (year: undisclosed!)

Where have you lived?

Various places in the UK and Holland

Where can we find you online?

Sophie Snail Adventures (a blog of children’s stories – my new hobby so not much there at the moment!) Check it out here: Sophie Snail Adventures

What brought you to Almere?

I followed my husband

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.

All of it! The people, the architecture, the ease of access to so many diverse things to do and see. It is a rich city in lots ways.

Becky and her husband Neil
How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?

Through the people I have met.

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

Oooh, lots…which shall I pick? With my family I love to go to the Kemphaan – get back in touch with nature, have a snack and you can enjoy a different experience every time you go. With my husband I like to go out to eat, socialise with friends and going to the cinema. I like ‘de Brasserij de Bergerrie’ for food.

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?

I would define myself as me, where-ever I may be.

How long do you plan on living here for?

The foreseeable future. We have no plans to move.

Tell us how you found International Almere?

I have been aware of International Almere since they were a little acorn.

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

Get in touch with International Almere and start meeting people! Other people are the key to settling in here…someone somewhere will have an answer to most of the questions and challenges you face and it’s always good to have people to share your experiences with. Makes the move much easier than it could otherwise be.

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?

Mmmmm, being a parent and having to re-educate myself in the way the various systems/people here work compared to what I have been used to (and in turn educating the Dutch in my ways!).

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?

My family.

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate? Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

I love Sint Maarten. I love to help the children be creative making lanterns, watch them sing around the neighbourhood, then their excitement when they get a treat  (I also rather enjoy several traditional Dutch treats myself such as oliebollen and stroopwafel – lekker!) We still celebrate Easter and Christmas and if I can find the right cut of meat I’m fond of a traditional English Roast Dinner followed by Apple Crumble!

Becky’s daughters celebrating Sint Maarten

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